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By: Lord Erman, Nafiz Erman
Mar 24 2007 12:24pm
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by Lord Erman

Episode IV: "Rogue Deck Building"


Why do we all play Magic? What is our goal when we play Magic? I think that everyone of us will answer these questions differently. But as most of you already know, Wizards of the Coast (as always) makes our life easier by answering these questions for us by themselves. They divide the whole Magic community into 3 and each type of players has names; Timmy, Johnny and Spike.

Many of you already are familiar with them but for the others who are not, let me do a quick summary of those player types.


Timmy wants to have fun and having fun is all that he wants when he plays Magic. He likes overcosted fatties or coin flipping cards; cards that allow him to have a good time.



Johnny wants to show everyone, how smart, how clever and how creative he is. Deck building is the biggest challange for him, no matter whether he wins or he loses.



He is the winner. He plays only to win and nothing else than victory will satisfy him. To Spike Magic is more than just a game; it is a way to show to others how good he is.

Verdant Force




Dark Confidant

Now we ALL are familiar with the player types that do exist in the Magic community.

As for me, I don't belong to those categories. I am certainly not a Timmy and not a Spike as well. For a very long time, I considered myself  as a Johnny but then found out that I'm not. At least not a pure Johnny. I'm a Johnny/Spike hybrid.




Wizards of the Coast described this type as follows:

Johnny/Spike wants to win. He just wants to win with style. Johnny/Spike is the rogue deck builder. He's the guy that comes up with the crazy decks that just might work. But Johnny/Spike takes the next step; he actually plays it. Johnny/Spike is out to prove that he can win while having the limitation of also being innovative while he does so.

The full article of the Wizards of the Coast about these player types can be found here.



Pride of the Clouds

Yes I'm a Johnny/Spike. And I'm a Rogue Deck Builder. Dear readers, welcome to the Rogue Play series, I sure do hope you like'em!



It often comes from a single card. You look at a certain card just as all the millions of other Magic players do, but you see something that they don't. There lies your little inspiration. And a glimpse of inspiration is all that a Rogue Deck Builder needs.

When Coldsnap was released, there on the bottom of the cardlist was a card called Zur the Enchanter. Many of you didn't even noticed the card. Others just simply ignored it. Me, I was just hit by it. Eveybody was after Ohran Viper or Adarkar Valkyrie but I was after this card. Zur the Enchanter. That card was all the inspiration I needed.


Ohran Viper

Adarkar Valkyrie

Zur the Enchanter

"Zur, buddy" I said, "You will be my best friend for the next few months".



Once you have the idea, you start thinking about it and that was what I did. But in this case, it took me weeks to "break" Zur the Enchanter and I'm not lying. It took really that long. It is actually all about how you approach a card. What do you want to do with it? Do you want it to be your superstar? Or will it be just another tool that leads to victory? Just because I couldn't answer these questions, I spent weeks just by looking at the card and by trying to find out what to do with it.

In the meantime I was "lurking" in many different forums. Many other people were talking about the card. There were dozens of decklists. Or sheer ideas. Lists of enchantments that can be fetched by Zur the Enchanter. Some were even claiming that Sea's Claim to be the best enchantment to fetch with Zur!


Is this really the best you can come up with? Sorry to hear that.

When I left those forums and that "Is Sea's Claim the supreme enchantment you can get with Zur or not" discussions, I was sure about two cards; Copy Enchantment and Pillory of the Sleepless.



Now this part is the trickiest. After lurking in the forums, reading as many articles as I could find and talking with friends, I had to actually make some decisions.. At that point, I made up my mind; Zur the Enchanter was going to be my hero in this deck. So I started building the whole deck around him.

First I had to decide which enchantments I was going to play. The final list was this:

Phyrexian Arena

Copy Enchantment

Pillory of the Sleepless

Blessing of the Nephilim



Ghostly Prison

Shielding Plax

The only enchantment which cannot be fetched with Zur the Enchanter is Faith's Fetters. The other 7 cards can be fetched with him. And also let me remind you that the time I was building this deck, CHK block was in standard and Ghostly Prison was an obvious choice.

The second part was then to decide which removal/protection spells I wanted to add to the deck. But for this deck, it was the easiest part. I quickly added Remand and Wrath of God to the mix.

So there I was with a list of cards. Now it was time to actually build the deck.



I had a list of cards and quickly made the deck. But as those of you who build decks know very well, the first time you build it, it is far away from being perfect. I started playtesting. Normally before I play a deck anywhere, I test it within a group of friends of mine. And playtesting revealed 4 things:

1- Cranial Extraction ment "Good Game" for me.
2- If my Zur the Enchanter went to the graveyard with all those enchantments attached to him, there was no way of  getting back those enchantments.
3- I wasen't needing 4 copies of some of the enchantments like Pillory of the Sleepless
4- I wasen't drawing enough cards.

Thus the following 3 cards were added to the deck.


Compulsive Research


We didn't have Feldon's Cane back then and Reminisce was the only option for me to get my cards back to my library. And Clone was added to the deck as my alternative win condition.

So there I was, with a tuned Rogue Deck in hand. Before I continue any further, let me give you the final decklist first.

Zur the Enchanter DeckA Once STD Legal Deck by Lord Erman

23 Lands

4x Godless Shrine
4x Watery Grave
4x Hallowed Fountain
2x Adarkar Wastes
2x Caves of Koilos
1x Underground River
1x Azorius Chancery
1x Dimir Aqueduct
1x Orzhov Basilica
1x Eiganjo Castle
1x Minamo, School at Water's Edge  
1x Shizo, Death's Storehouse

6 Creatures

4x Zur the Enchanter
2x Clone

 31 Other Spells

3x Phyrexian Arena
4x Copy Enchantment
3x Ghostly Prison
1x Blessing of the Nephilim
1x Infiltrator's Magemark
2x Faith's Fetters
2x Pillory of the Sleepless
1x Shielding Plax
2x Reminisce
4x Wrath of God
4x Compulsive Research
4x Remand



no sideboard

Zur the Enchanter

I will not talk about strategies or things like that about this deck. This deck is not the main issue of this article. And also it was a deck I build almost 7 months ago, so it doesn't make sense to talk about the deck.


Uhm... I think that you got it by now.  


Anyone other than Spike. Spike is the winner remember, so he doesn't care about being original. If a deck can win him the next big event, that'll be his choice. Anything other than that is rubbish.

But Johnny likes it. He likes being original. Actually all of the Johnnies are actual Rogue Deck builders. But the difference between a pure Johhny and a Johnny/Spike shows up when it comes playing it. A Johnny would be satisfied when his deck get appreciated by others. This way he proves everytime how smart he is and how creative he can be.

But as Wizards of the Coast also says, the group I belong to -the Johhny/Spike-, takes the next step. He wants to win when he plays the deck. And the experienced players among you will see the "touch" of a Johhny/Spike to the above deck. It isn't a pure Johnny deck. It is something original, something not frequently seen but at the same time its goal is winning.


Any Rogue Deck Builder may answer this question differently but I can only tell you my own reasons. The biggest reason I like building Rogue Decks, comes from my Johnny gene; I like being original. I don't need someone else's deck to enjoy Magic; I can build my own decks.

Also I like the challange of building Rogue Decks. Take the above example. I really did spent weeks to create the deck. And it was so amusing to place each stone on its place and to form the deck card by card. This is the biggest joy I get from Magic. And probably most of the Rogue Deck builders think like me.


That's the best part. At the beginning of a game, unless you and your opponent are friends, nobody knows what the other player plays. After a few turns you know what kind of a deck you are facing. It can be anything. But your opponent can't be so sure about you. What is that deck you're playing with? What to expect? He is not sure. And he won't even understand what happened when the game ends to your favour.

A quick example. Lately I was playing a lot with my Harvester Deck in the Tourney Room. Most of the games were like this:

MY 1st TURN 
ME: I play a Forest and end the turn.
MY OPPONENT THINKS: Mono Green Aggro. I must be careful. Next turn he'll play a Scryb Ranger and then a Groundbreaker.

ME: I play a Plains and then a Wall of Roots and pass the turn.
MY OPPONENT THINKS: What is this? A Green/WhiteControl deck? Such a thing does not exists! Oh boy, this will be easy! He must be 8 years old or something.

ME: I play a Swamp and cast a Stupor, my opponent discards his Vesuvan Shapeshifter.
MY OPPONENT THINKS: What the .....?

ME: I cast an Extirpate targeting his Vesuvan Shapeshifter and remove all 4 copies from the game.

What I wanted to make clear with the above example is that the "Element  of Surprise" is always with the Rogue Deck player. You may win or you may lose but you have a huge advantage over your opponent. He can never guess what to expect. And if you have a fair deck, a little bit of luck and some playing experience, you might win the game.


I won nothing, if trophies or MTGO ratings are what you mean. Absolutely nothing. But to me, there are more important things than those. I won friends. My "My Buddies" list is full of players I met sometime, playing some other weird deck of mine and we started chatting and we now play from time to time.  To me, this is the biggest prize.


That's all for now dear readers. Join me next week on Rogue Play Episode V: "Rogues On The Rise".  

Until then, take care
Nafiz ERMAN, ak.a. Lord Erman


A Special Thanks To:
Mikail52 for creating my banner who is a professional artist in real life. 10 years ago we started playing Magic together and we still do play. He is also the first to "suffer" from my Rogue Decks and he always tests them with me with patience. Thanks buddy!


by zahori at Mon, 03/26/2007 - 21:18
zahori's picture

Nice deck evolution and cliff notes on the magic 'personalities."

However I think that you did not adequately define a rouge deck. It seems to me that you feel a rogue deck is simply a deck that is not one of an established archetype in a particular metagame.

I think that is just not fair enough for real rogue decks. A rogue deck is not merely a pet deck. It is a deck that attempts to exploit a known metagame. It may not be as 'powerful' as known archetypes, but due to good matchups against the expected decks, and the element of surprise (which you covered), it has a certain edge to it.

suffer by Mikail52 at Sun, 03/25/2007 - 10:07
Mikail52's picture

Exactly man! I am suffering because of your strange decks for 10 years man. 10 years.

Every time I built a new deck which I thought was a killer he had something to block it up and beat it. I do not test my decks with him anymore. Because even I build the killer, he always has some strange things to overcome the combos I cast. For me MTGO means you buddy, for I can find no stronger rivals around. Take care. See you around.

A Shout Out for Nafiz! by thescale99 at Sat, 03/24/2007 - 18:05
thescale99's picture

Lord erman always has the right approach - its a game, folks...treat it that way! A fun deck doesn't need to win when you realize that fun can be defined in so many different ways! Challange me any time, dear friend!

Johnny-Spike by N_i_g_h_t_m_a_r_e (not verified) at Sat, 03/24/2007 - 18:41
N_i_g_h_t_m_a_r_e's picture

I too consider myself a johnny-spike. I lean a bit more to the spike but in that I think that the innovative nature of the johnny within me and the advantage given from playing decks off the beaten path do indeed feed the spike-ish lust for the win. By taking advantage of the known metagame and coming in with something fresh and unexpected, you may in turn create the next power deck yourself that all the hard-line spikes follow. To me, that is a wonderful satisfaction.

great stuff by jinx_talaris at Sat, 03/24/2007 - 16:17
jinx_talaris's picture

Very nice read. Some players may read this and even learn a thing or two about themselves. I myself am also a Johnny/Spike though I like to lean more towards Spike when it comes to constructed tourney time. Other than that, most of my .dec files are rogue decks like the one you posted here. I'd like to challenge you with my Flicker Mage deck in standard sometime :D.

by Phenix at Sat, 03/24/2007 - 16:55
Phenix's picture

A very entertaining article as well as informative. I especially enjoyed the personal insights into your thought processes as you build decks. Also, I was familiar with the Timmy/Johnny/Spike terms in general ,but I hadn't seen wizards definitions. So, I learned a little something there too.

by Lythand at Sat, 03/24/2007 - 14:36
Lythand's picture

Ok..as you can see in my post...Hewked en fonix werked fur me!

It'll Get Only Better by Lord Erman at Sat, 03/24/2007 - 15:10
Lord Erman's picture

Thanks you all for your kind words guys. I still didn't finish my "learning curve" in this and all I can promise is that my articles will get better each time. And about the deck; I have chosen an old one with a purpose. I wanted to focus everyone to the deck building process rather than the deck itself. If I have posted a newer deck, comments would have been like "add this or drop that". This time, I wanted to avoid it.

by Lythand at Sat, 03/24/2007 - 14:35
Lythand's picture

I like the article. Even though a few sets have comeout. A few cards come to mind when I see this deck. Vampiric link, body double, and prolly a strong card...retether. People are saying retether will never be its older cousin Replenish, but I think retether has some good chances. Im interested in seeing someone break it since Replenish was probably my favorote type 2 deck ever.

As far as what I am..I would have to say Johnny/Timmy with a splach of Spike for flavor. But more emphisis on Johnny. Kind of like a MTG mixed drink.

Yo! by Mitchy at Sat, 03/24/2007 - 14:25
Mitchy's picture

Great article dude, love the use of graphics, and great job on general layout, its clean and nice to look at. I'm a rogue deck builder too, lol, and I've been making soo much rogue decks, i've got liek 300+ decks on MTGO alone, maybe only 20 good ones, and you should put in that article somewhere, that a rogue deck builder usually fails, but with some perseverance you can make some insanely good decks, that catch people outta no where and be liek WHAM, over. hehe.

whats yours inner child? by sliver heir at Sat, 03/24/2007 - 13:39
sliver heir's picture

a good read. i'm curious as to what everyones type is now. by those definitions i guess i'd be a johnny/timmy building decks is what i enjoy most trying to make one for each format and being able to play with more of my cards. however more of those decks are themed and for fun not to impress people with how smart or clever it is. thats not to say i dont play to win or run std decks for the fab prizes just that thats where i have the most fun. and i have a bunch of articles coming your way along those lines... if i ever get out of here. closing 21 yuk. a week in the field and 2 in hebron. but lots of time guarding means lots of time to think so when I do get out i have some fun ones for you. (reading articles/writing comments on a cell phone equals carpotunnel)